back to article Digital minister: We're still talking to BT about sorting crap broadband

UK digital minister Matt Hancock has denied that talks with BT to improve poor internet speeds in 1.4 million rural areas have fallen through. The former British state monopoly has controversially volunteered to connect 98.5 per cent of premises to at least 10Mbps by 2020, as an alternative to the government's plans for a …

  1. djstardust Silver badge

    Meanwhile .....

    BT put up broadband by £2.50 per month in January, after sending a previous email saying our speed increase was in fact free of charge (previous increases Apr 17, Jul 16, Sep 15)

    BT Profits increase year on year again (although this year may be screwed because of the accounting scandal)

    OFFCOM empoyees sit and do nothing (apart from laugh at us because they are on 100K+ a year) despite being in place to regulate the industry and protect the consumer.

    Thing is that BT management know the UK Government have no long term strategy (as ministers don't stay in the job that long) and play them for fools.

    This is one fucked up country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meanwhile .....

      This is one fucked up country.

      How many others have you lived in, to make an accurate comparison?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meanwhile .....

      Where is your evidence of OFCOM salaries. Link plz

    3. Luther Blissett

      Re: Meanwhile .....

      OFFCOM empoyees sit and do nothing (apart from laugh at us because they are on 100K+ a year), being in place to protect the industry and regulate the consumer.

      There, fixed it for you.

  2. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "recoup by further hiking"

    Sorry, maybe I'm missing something obvious, but why would BT or any company making over £3 billion in profits every year need to further gouge customers to pay a £600 million bill?

    If our neoliberal government really wants to regulate something (isn't that an oxymoron?) then maybe it should start by looking at BT's blatant profiteering first, before worrying about exactly how it spends those profits (or not, apparently).

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "any company making over £3 billion in profits every year need to further gouge customers"

      Simple.

      Because they can.

      That's when you know you're dealing with a monopoly.

      When they have no effective pressure on them to do anything else.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "recoup by further hiking"

      That's how USOs work. It's how the USO for telephone service works today. It's how the USO for electricity supply and water supply works today.

      Services provided under a USO are delivered nationally, with the total annual cost divided by the number of customers to arrive at an average cost. A regulated margin is added and that's the cost.

      If you don't do it that way then people in the sticks would be paying £250 a month for a phone line.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: "recoup by further hiking"

      BT's blatant profiteering

      BT's quoted profits are, as usual, operating profits, before all those deductions like expenses, tax, interest, investment, etc. If you look at its actual profits in relation to its size you'll see that it makes very similar profits to any other company of its size, and less than some of the bigger telcos.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As long as BT own the infrastructure nothing will change.

    It should have been split at the very start with explicit contracts to maintain and modernise it. You want the profits? You pay your way.

    How do you fix it now? Pass, too many in government with their fingers in this particular pie.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It should have been split at the very start with explicit contracts to maintain and modernise it. You want the profits? You pay your way.

      Yes, that worked so well for the rail network.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Britain is already falling behind as most other OECD countries move to full fibre 1Gbps+ national networks"

          Could you name the OECD countries with an appreciable, and growing, amount of 1Gbit FTTH?

          Government owned doesn't necessarily mean universal service. Network Rail is state owned, but the quality of the infrastructure varies wildly across the country. Some main lines are high(ish) speed, electrified and lovely, other main lines haven't been upgraded since Brunel was alive.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          big government subsides for fiber to the home build out by private firms

          Ah yes, the most highly-taxed country in the EU takes taxpayers money and decides how to spend it. If you don't want/need FTTH? Tough, you're going to pay for your neighbours to have it anyway.

          Not going to be acceptable in the UK.

          I live in France, in a rural area, I won't get FTTH. I'll get 20Mbit/s shared WiFi from a pole, for 50 euros a month. Or I can keep my current 4Mbit/s ADSL for 30.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >I live in France, in a rural area, I won't get FTTH. I'll get 20Mbit/s shared WiFi from a pole, for 50 euros a month. Or I can keep my current 4Mbit/s ADSL for 30.

            So you're taking both - install a dual route router and benefit from the potentially higher data rates the WiFi gives access to, whilst retaining the guaranteed 4Mbps service for streaming from Amazon Prime/Netflix etc..

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          re: " just look at the success of LLU (local loop unbundling) for standard adsl."

          Where do you live?

          We've had both LLU and Sub-loop unbundling for years, yet a casual browse of SamKnows will show you that there have been very few takers, most ISPs simply went the BT Wholesale route...

          France also has an interesting model - big government subsides for fiber to the home build out by private firms but once the fibre is installed any ISP can provide service over it for a nominal government regulated access fee.

          The UK could as part of the BDUK project adopted this model for sub-loop unbundling - it would have positively changed the business models of the startup Alt-ISPs (it certainly would have improved community engagement as people would have not waited for the BT line just because they wanted Sky). But I suspect from previous statements, Virgin prefers not having to give competitors access to its network...

          1. fibrefool

            Re: re: " just look at the success of LLU (local loop unbundling) for standard adsl."

            "We've had both LLU and Sub-loop unbundling for years, yet a casual browse of SamKnows will show you that there have been very few takers, most ISPs simply went the BT Wholesale route..."

            most ISPs yes. Most subscribers no:

            https://www.ispreview.co.uk/review/top10.php

            you'll notice of the top 4 here one (BT itself) exclusively uses BT Wholesale. 1 (Virgin) uses its own infrastructure and the other two are LLU providers (I think they use BT Wholesale for exchanges where they don't have their own DSLAMs). Each of the top 4 is bigger than all the smaller ISPs combined.

            with FTTC it's easier for the ISP to interconnect to Openreach (no DSLAMs needed any more). But of course true unbundling is harder - nobody's about to build out their own cabinets with VDSL or G.Fast DSLAMs in them. FTTP is that much harder of course - it's hard to imagine multiple operators digging to every home...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Altnets? lol

    History repeats itself - once again we seem to be obsessed with introducing competition into a natural monopoly.

    Didn't work with cable TV (NTL and Telewest went bust - that's despite BT being banned from competing on the TV side!), didn't work with mobile (five became four, and then those four all entered into various network sharing agreements), won't work with fibre broadband. Not to mention the "Hull problem" but on a larger scale, where end users are restricted to a handful of ISPs so unknown that it makes Andrews and Arnold look like a sprawling enterprise.

    And even then it'll be the urban areas that see any action - the rest will be left to BT to sort out, just as Royal Mail got lumped with all the properties that the "competition" didn't cherry pick

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Altnets? lol

      "NTL and Telewest went bust "

      No they didn't. Telewest bought NTL, then Virgin bought Telewest.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Altnets? lol

        Yes, they did (well, Telewest didn't formally go bankrupt, but was pretty close and was able to restructure its debt)

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1975874.stm

        https://www.theguardian.com/media/2002/sep/04/broadcasting.citynews

        About the only bit you got right was that Telewest bought NTL (even though NTL were stronger). NTL:Telewest, as was, then entered into a licensing deal with Virgin, but Virgin/Branson never had anything close to a controlling stake - and today they don't own any of it, having been bought out by one Mr. Malone and his Liberty Global

  5. Commswonk Silver badge

    A Politician Speaks...

    Matt Hancock: "I didn't recognise the description in the papers... but part of being a minister is sometimes seeing things that are close to the truth and some that aren't."

    And not knowing which is which.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legislation allows for 'simple increases' in the USO. What timeframe are we talking BT/Gov/Ofcom?

    So how does the Government increase the headline legislative USO over time (as it says it will, say in a 1-2 year Parliament timeframe), when all customers on longer copper lines of 500m or more, receiving the said USO of 10Mbps would likely take 10 years minimum to replace those customers with full fibre FTTP to achieve, the next step change, to a minimum 30Mbps USO.

    Surely better to start on that upgrade now to full Fibre FTTP on all copper lines more than 500m (250m as the crow flies). Otherwise it's impossible to apply a USO that increases over time. This is why the first USO should be a minimum of 30Mbps because it makes BT's obfuscated, bamboozled "up to" copper carcass network is obsolete on lines longer than 500m/250m-crow flies).

    We need to start that FTTP upgrade now for these 500m+ line lengths (even just make a start, set a date for the last new copper install), because it will take at least 10+ years for these BT customers.

    Otherwise, they are pretty much stuck with 10Mbps indefinitely, if this USO (voluntary or otherwise) is accepted, there is no upgrade plans for these customers in this approach.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    "a Devon village's decision to burn an effigy of an Openreach van on bonfire night "

    Lucky the driver got away in time, eh?

    Yes, mine's the one with a copy of the proper version of The Wicker Man in it.

    TBH the best way for Rural communities in the UK to get broadband will be to form their own company and lay their own link to the nearest exchange.

    Just my $0.02

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about everyone pays the real cost for the upgrade to there home and how much it costs a month to run. So in densely populated areas of London its 100 to upgrade to full fat fibre plus a few quid more per month. Out in the middle of nowhere on top of a hill though a wood and 5 miles to the exchange that will 20k please and an extra 40 a month as its more costly to provide service with so few people in the area? That way everyone can have full fat fibre?

    1. Nifty

      Funny then that some rural communities have grouped together and done DIY fibre at a fraction of that £20k then.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Funny then that some rural communities have grouped together and done DIY fibre at a fraction of that £20k then.

        You missed the difference between cost and price.

        As a community, you certainly can group together and share the costs. However, without that community commitment (ie. nearly every house in an area joining in) and backing that up with hard cash upfront, you have to price the service on the cost of provisioning service to an individual property...

        The problem is that government (Labour or Conservative) doesn't really like community engagement because it is harder to control and doesn't produce large tax revenues, whereas signing up to a big company and allowing token community engagement and participation allows Westminster politicians to benefit from the tax revenues and say how they've empowered communities....

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          ... and doesn't produce large tax revenues ...

          Are you aware that a number of alt-nets closed down due to being taxed differently to BT[OR] ?

          The basis of rates was changed, so the owners of any infrastructure paid rates on the notional value of the infrastructure IF IT WAS 100% UTILISED - vastly increasing their rates bill compared to what BT paid for any vaguely similar infrastructure. At my last job, we had a number of customers "cut off" when the alt-net they got their internet service through was shut down after this taxation change.

          Some of them had real problems getting any alternative usable service - too far for decent ADSL, poor signal for 3G/4G.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Are you aware that a number of alt-nets closed down due to being taxed differently to BT[OR] ?

            Yes, but I've not seen any politicians wring their hands over this...

            I fact I suspect the differential tax rates are all part of the plan to maintain a BT monopoly, because it is so much easy to kick (BT) than trying to resolve the real issues..

    2. Mike Scott 1

      Perhaps the correspondent should have to walk up that hill with a bucket to collect water each day... Thats how a country works. People in rural areas receive few services than urbanites, but in exchange certain services have a USO.

      I'm on the edge of a village, which has FTTC for some residents, and exchange only lines for others. I'm by no means in the middle of nowhere, but pay, including rental £40.99 per month for 5M up, 500K down, with no LLU options, just BT, and absolutely no prospect of any improvement. I am heartily sick of continuous broadband adverts promising blistering speed for 20 quid a month, and BT having a virtual monopoly in this area that is doing nothing but making profit, and not delivering the USO it is obliged to. Now the government is seemingly going to let them get away with it.

      Oh well, more money to spend on football, rugby, cricket rights.... What a way to provide national infrastructure.

  9. Anonymous Noel Coward
    Thumb Up

    Broadband in the UK will never improve. There's even rumors about the "obligated 10 mbps" talks collapsing.

    On another note, mine increased from 768 kbps to 1024 kbps.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That rather seems to ignore the evidence that it very clearly has.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a working service please

    The issue is not BT or Talk Talk or Plusnet, the issue is openreach. I know as I have had 2 different providers in the last 5 months and 7+ visits from openreach for the same fault with both providers.

    Openreach are not fit for purpose, they won't fix obvious faults

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Foregone conclusion

    "If the government takes BT's route, it will be accused of propping up a monopoly."

    So that's what it'll be, then. >sigh<

    As somebody said above, "This is one fucked up country."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Foregone conclusion

      How would you propose not having a monopoly in the rural network? To build two, separate, competing networks would cost at least twice as much. That's why Openreach have to wholesale to any telco or ISP.

      1. cynic56

        Re: Foregone conclusion

        It isn't how many operators you have. It's how they are motivated or controlled. One operator would be fine if Ofcom and their like had any balls.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Foregone conclusion

        >How would you propose not having a monopoly in the rural network?

        Whilst avoiding a monopoly in any specific locale is going to be costly, we can avoid a national rural network monopoly.

        Only real issue is the USO. If BT have a USO for Internet access then we are back to either waiting on BT or having multiple networks. If BT can hand-off the USO to third-parties (assets to be held by a community interest company) then we might be able to improve matters and begin to mitigate the worst effects of having a monopoly in any single locale.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Mike Scott 1

      As a rural dweller I can say I agree with you to a degree. I live 3 miles from the exchange we are connected to, less than a mile to another which for some reason BT refuse to move us to. We need to temper our expectation. I'm not asking for 100M, I'd be happy with reliable 10M, but there seems little prospect of that. Do you think it would be cheaper to rehouse me rather than have BT run some cable along to the pole that runs 10 yards from the house?

      As for your f*** the country dwellers attitude, where do you think your food comes from?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Do you think it would be cheaper to rehouse me rather than have BT run some cable along to the pole that runs 10 yards from the house?

        Does that pole have cable to the closer exchange? Does it have spare capacty, and spare pairs in the cable? Have you offered to pay for that 10 yards of cable yourself? Are there neighbours in the same situation?

        1. Mike Scott 1

          Why should I - Isn't that what I pay £500 a year for?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Isn't that what I pay £500 a year for?

            And you expect someone else to pay the rest? Who, and why should they pay for your internet access?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As for your f*** the country dwellers attitude, where do you think your food comes from?

        Spain, South Africa, Costa Rica, Colombia, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, France, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Egypt...

        1. Mike Scott 1

          Life must be easy with such a simplistic view of how a country works

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          As for your f*** the country dwellers attitude, where do you think your food comes from?

          Spain, South Africa, Costa Rica, Colombia, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, France, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Egypt...

          Until the era of net immigration, measured in the 100,000's pa., the UK produced over 60% of it's own food, now it's just under 50%. The rest as you note comes from all over the place.

      3. Oh Homer Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: "f*** the country dwellers attitude"

        Not a farmer, but I live as a not very affluent tenant on a farm. Personally I don't think I should have to be a farmer to qualify for something as basic as a decent telecoms infrastructure. That'd be like saying that country folk shouldn't get postal services, or electricity, or roads, or ambulance services, or pretty much anything that fails to meet this Social Darwinist expectation of "high margin profits and fuck everyone else".

        I think some people fail to understand that not everyone who lives in the countryside owns a sprawling estate, three Land Rovers and a stud of horses.

  13. Captain DaFt

    "Digital minister: We're still talking to BT about sorting crap broadband"

    At the Club:

    Digital minister:"I say, how's sorting out that crap broadband coming along? -chuckles-"

    Jan du Plessis:"Oh swimmingly! -winks knowingly-"

    -Clink glasses and the whole Club shares a hearty laugh-

  14. Overflowing Stack

    If I were the minister.

    1. BT should be forced to sell Openreach, the quasi-breakup still has a conflict of interest and Openreach is badly run. Too many contractors for day to day jobs, rather than its own workforce. The job of upgrading this country's infrastructure is huge and hiring contractors makes no sense at all.

    2. The people in charge of Ofcom should be fired, they are hopeless, it's proven itself to be completely ineffective and inept .

    3. All new build property should be FTTP by law, no new copper, it's nuts (further proof that Openreach is badly run, everything is short-term sticky plasters, nothing is long-term).

    4. Openreach should be given 6 months to start using its "dark fibre" or lose it, letting other people use it.

    5. Openreach should be forced to share the exact reasons why it hasn't upgraded exchanges and cabinets in a completely open and transparent way. Currently, it not only lies to and misleads the public, but also local authorities and councillors.

    6. A complete ban on network and traffic shaping, filtering and download limits. There is no point having a 1000mbps connection with a 1GB a month or day allowance and 512kbps at peak times just won't do. If the network cannot handle it, charge more and upgrade the network.

    "xx speed Broadband for £20 inc line rental" is misleading.

    Ofcom should have sorted this out 15 years ago when NTL introduced the first data cap.

    I travel to France, Germany and Spain and regularly stay in Airbnb properties where they have fibre, proper fibre. This country is a joke. 5th biggest economy in the world, pah!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do people get a say in what they buy or Is everyone going to have to pay three or four times what they do now for broadband? Better broadband is pointless if it’s completely unaffordable and you’ve banned the cheaper options.

  15. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    BT's volunatry USO

    How can an obligation be voluntary? its either a Universal Service Obligation (i.e. a requirement to provide said service to everyone) or its not

    Got friends in the wilds of knowhere, that are forced to use exorbitent sat broadband or struggle to sync at 250kbps on the mile+ long cooper string from the exchange with perminant crackle.

    In a former life as BB support for one of BTWs customers, I had to switch several off of the dreaded upto (max) service to get their lines to sync at anything resembling a connection

  16. ZippedyDooDah

    Apologies for a non-technical post.

    I have switched twice from TalkTalk/Tentel to BT, for the cheapest cost over 12 months, we have FTTC.

    On both occasions our speed dropped significantly, most recently from Tentel/TalkTalk. We were averaging 36+ Mbps and just six weeks later with BT we are now averaging 18+ Mbps.

    It's halved. Are we not using exactly the same cables/cabinet and wiring? How is this even possible? Oh, it would be unfair to not mention that our upload speed has actually increased from 2.5/3.5 to a 4.5+

    Any ideas? Thanks.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >We were averaging 36+ Mbps and just six weeks later with BT we are now averaging 18+ Mbps.

      ...

      Are we not using exactly the same cables/cabinet and wiring?

      If this is the line speed (downstream rate) as reported by your DSL modem/router then I would be tempted to report it as a line fault. Worth checking the 'paperwork' from BT when you switched, as there should be an expected speed figure quoted. Also use the various BT checkers to get a better indication of the speed you should be getting:

      https://www.btwholesale.com/includes/adsl/adsl.htm?s_cid=ws_furls_adslchecker

      http://www.speedtest.btwholesale.com/

      https://www.productsandservices.bt.com/products/speed-checker/

      https://www.homeandbusiness.openreach.co.uk/fibre-broadband/when-can-i-get-fibre

      http://dslchecker.bt.com/adsl/adslchecker.welcome

      Beyond that the reasons for differences in Internet speed can be due to your router (I assume you are using the BT Smart Hub) and the exchange equipment behind the line, namely TenTel probably used the BT Wholesale service equipment and not the BT Retail equipment.

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